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Gregory of Nyssa

Gregory of Nyssa was a fourth century Christian bishop and saint. He was a younger brother of Basil the Great, and a good friend of Gregory Nazianzus.

  • Born: ca. 335-340 A.D.
  • Died: ? (but after 394)

He became bishop of the town of Nyssa in 372. While Nyssa itself was not a terribly large or important town, his brother Basil wanted him to be close to the latter's see in Constantinople. He was present at the Council of Antioch, and later at the Second Ecumenical Council which took place in Constantinople. There he was a defender of the Nicene Creed against the Arians.

One of his greatest contributions to theology is the idea of epiktasis or constant progress. The Platonic philosophy (with which he was familiar) was that stability is perfection and change is for the worse. In contrast, Gregory described the ideal of human perfection as constant progress in virtue and godliness. In his theology, God himself has always been perfect and has never changed, and never will. Humanity fell from grace in the Garden of Eden, but rather than return to an unchanging state, humanity's goal is to become more and more perfect, more like God, even though humanity will never understand, much less attain, God's transcendence. This idea has had a profound influence on the Eastern Orthodox teaching regarding theosis or "divinization".

His writings include Life of Moses and 15 homilies On the Song of Songs.

External Links

  • Gregory of Nyssa Home Page (http://www.bhsu.edu/artssciences/asfaculty/dsalomon/nyssa/home) -- includes many English translations of his writings, with introductions

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